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    Last large-scale unit deploys to Iraq

    Last large-scale unit deploys to Iraq

    Photo By Sgt. 1st Class David Bruce | Sgt. Charles Bailey, of Stanford, Ky., with the 617th Military Police Company,...... read more read more



    Story by Staff Sgt. David Bruce 

    Camp Atterbury Public Affairs

    CAMP ATTERBURY JOINT MANEUVER CENTER, Ind. - Everything that begins has an end. While that may come across as a tad cliché, it is nevertheless accurate. Operation Iraqi Freedom's end ushered Operation New Dawn. Now, Operation New Dawn is reaching its endgame. It's time to put the chairs on the tables, kill the lights and lock-up as we depart. Or not depart. Or as Yoda, from George Lucas' "Star Wars" films put it, "Difficult to see, the future is; always in motion."

    The mission of Operation New Dawn is advise and assist, and there is still work to be done despite the looming deadline for withdrawal of U.S. forces from the country at the end of the year.

    The Kentucky Army National Guard's 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade is concluding their preparations for what could be the last large-scale mobilization to Iraq at Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center, Ind., this month. The 149th MEB's deployment also marks the largest deployment of the Kentucky Army National Guard since World War II, said Col. Scott Campbell, commander of the 149th MEB.

    "Our task force has been called upon to fulfill a number of missions to close operations in Iraq," said Campbell. "We have nine different submissions, with the big ones being providing a security force, base life support activities, operating the joint visitor bureau and convoy security."

    The 149th MEB forms the bulk of Task Force Legion, so named in honor of the Louisville Legion of the Civil War to which the 149th MEB traces its history. The Kentucky unit is joined with units from Virginia and Utah to form a task force of more than 2,600 Soldiers, said Campbell.

    "The mission was too big for just the Kentucky National Guard," said Campbell. "The Virginia and Utah units are great to work with; there are none better. I am real pleased with the units. They bring a different perspective and we have learned a lot from each other."

    According to 2nd Lt. Jerod Hansen, of Kenob, Utah, platoon leader of 1st Platoon, B Battery, 2nd Battalion, 22nd Field Artillery of the Utah Army National Guard, there were challenges inherent in training with a multi-state task force.

    "Getting to know the accents was different, but it's going well," said Hansen. "We are building the relationships that we will need overseas to be successfully in our mission."

    For the Utah artillerymen, it means deploying without their howitzers.

    "We are essentially becoming an infantry unit," said Hansen. "A lot of the guys haven't done this stuff since (Basic Combat Training). It was slow at the start as we adjusted, but everybody is motivated. They want to be here and want this training."

    Hansen credits the success of the task force to the leadership.

    "The leadership has been awesome in preparing us for the training. They keep us well informed of the mission and any relevant information and have been very proactive in getting the soldiers ready for the deployment," he said. "We have been doing a lot of our own training, with the non-commissioned officers of the unit stepping up and training our own guys.

    By not releasing the lower ranks to others (for training), we build a great deal of unit cohesion. Our non-commissioned officers have the experience to do a good job."

    Despite the drawdown for Operation New Dawn, the training undertaken by the Soldiers is similar to past deployments said Capt. David MacFarlan, a native of Charlottesville, Va., commander of D Company, 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry, Virginia Army National Guard.

    "The training is similar to what I went through in '07-'08 for the surge in Iraq," said MacFarlan. "I'm not certain what Iraq will look like now, but it's their country. The Iraqi people will determine their own future. They have a semblance of order to return to, as opposed to Afghanistan. I'm glad that this mission (stability operations) will finally be done."

    While there may be less media attention devoted to Iraq, it remains a perilous place.

    "The situation in Iraq is completely different from the '07-'08 surge," said Campbell, the 149th MEB and task force commander. "Now security is an Iraqi-led function; we are not the face of security. We are in an advise and assist role. Despite this, it is still dangerous and we're putting Soldiers in harm's way; there are still casualties coming out of Iraq. So the focus of our training is on battle drills and the individual training that any soldier needs."

    The training at Camp Atterbury was a refreshing change from locations used by elements of the task force for past mobilizations, said Campbell

    "The training resources here are excellent," he said. "There have been a few challenges, but the Soldiers are pleased with Camp Atterbury. The weather is similar to Kentucky and Virginia."

    The duration of the task force's orders to active duty is for 400 days, which exceeds the deadline set by President Obama for the withdrawal from Iraq, said Campbell.

    "The needs of the Army will dictate when we leave Iraq," said Campbell. "But I expect us to come home according to schedule. We will do what the Army and nation needs us to do to close the mission in Iraq. The eyes of the world will be back on Iraq, and we will leave with dignity and heads held high. This is an historic deployment."

    Or as MacFarlan, the commander of D Company said: "We'll be done when we're done."



    Date Taken: 07.23.2011
    Date Posted: 07.23.2011 00:17
    Story ID: 74181
    Location: CAMP ATTERBURY, IN, US 

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